Sunday, February 25, 2024

‘Star Wars’ fans channel the force hours before newest movie premieres

VIRGINIA BEACH — Ron Olivarez has seen every “Star Wars” movie in theaters, and the series’ newest release won’t be an exception.

The 46-year-old Virginia Beach native bought his ticket to see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at AMC Lynnhaven 18 two months before the Dec. 14 premiere.

The opening scenes of each movie brings Olivarez back to 1977, when he was 6 years old and seeing “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope” for the first time.

“I fell in love with it,” he said. “For that time you’re there, you can be that person — the hero or the villain.”

Olivarez is a true super fan. He’s seen each of the original “Star Wars” movies more than 100 times each. He’s also watched and rewatched the newer flicks within the franchise, although not as often.

He even stayed dedicated to the series after directors killed off his favorite character, Han Solo, in the 2015 film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“I was disappointed,” he said. “He’s like a rogue loner. He kind of does things in his own way, but he’s always there when they need him.”

Despite the absence of his favorite hero, Olivarez said he’s excited to see the newest movie and what type of special effects directors have in store for moviegoers this time around.

“When the first one came out that was state-of-the-art. No one had ever done anything like it,” he said. “As time has progressed … the special effects have become outstanding.”

Tidewater Theaters Ready for the “Last Jedi”

Movie theaters across Hampton Roads are preparing for waves of moviegoers who are ready to channel “the force” just like Olivarez.

Caitlin Walker, a spokeswoman for the Cinema Cafe chain which has five theaters across Hampton Roads, said that the company has been working on several events to ensure that “Star Wars” fans have a truly memorable experience on Thursday night.

At their Edinburgh location in Chesapeake, select fans will enjoy an early screening of the movie, along with exclusive content that’s never been seen before.

The theater has also secured a “giant” inflatable Death Star to sit outside the theater and cosplayers dressed as dark warrior Kylo Ren and Jakku scavenger Rey.

“It always draws a really big crowd,” Walker said. “We have pepole coming in dressed as Rey, as Han Solo, as characters. It’s a lot of fun.”

The Edinburgh theater won’t be the only one in Hampton Roads where moviegoers might spot a “Star Wars” character. A troop of cosplayers dressed as Stormtroopers plan to attend opening night at Cindemark City Center 12 in Newport News.

The Stormtroopers are part of a group called the 501st Legion, which has about 12,000 “Star Wars” fans as members. Although the 501st Legion specializes in dressing up as “Star Wars” villains, they use the “the force” for good via doing charity work.

RELATED: 501st Legion: Cosplay ‘Star Wars’ villains turn the dark side light through charity work

“Well be hanging out in the lobby and taking pictures with people,” said Josh Ward, a Newport News native and legion Stormtrooper with Garrison Tyranis, the Virginia chapter of the 501st. “We might go into the theaters after the movie is over and take more pictures with people in front of the screen.”

AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas are also celebrating the release of “The Last Jedi” with an opening night fan event on Thursday that, with the purchase of a ticket, includes a pack of “Star Wars” trading cards and a regular popcorn.

If the force is with you and a group of 50 people or more, Beach Cinema Alehouse is offering private shows. You can message them on Facebook for more details.

To view “The Last Jedi” at Portsmouth’s historic Commodore Theatre on Thursday night, the box office will open at 7 p.m. Starting Friday, the box office will open at noon.

But comic lovers say that “Star Wars” isn’t just for the silver screen — Marvel puts out a series of comic books that feature the series’ original heroes and villains. The stories detail the character’s backgrounds and bring readers along on new adventures, said Joey Boyack of Comic Kings.

“Fans love that there is a story for every character of ‘Star Wars’ they love, from background of Darth Vader to a solo adventure of the Gonk droid from Episode 4,” Boyack said. “With Marvel putting out new stories, currently featuring our heroes from the original films and a story of Darth Vader’s origins both coming out, we regularly see fans of the series rushing in on a Wednesday for the latest issues just to see what the next chapter of their favorite character contains.”

Send news tips to adrienne.m@wydaily.com.

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